Ideological differences between female and male county party chairs
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The Social Science Journal 41 (2004) 225234
Ideological differences between female and malecounty party chairs
Joel Paddock a,, Elizabeth Paddock ba Department of Political Science, Southwest Missouri State University, 901 S. National,
Springfield, MO 65804, USAb Drury University, Springfield, MO 65802, USA
This study compares the ideologies of female and male county party chairs. The data, which aredrawn from a 2000 survey of county Democratic and Republican party leaders, show modest genderdifferences. Women in both parties tend to be more liberal than men on a variety of issues. These genderdifferences, however, are minor. Women and men in both parties have about the same levels of partisanexperience, and, it is speculated, they tend to converge towards organizational norms. 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
During the past 30 years, women have become increasingly involved in political partyorganizations. A growing number of women serve as national party convention delegates,state and local party committee members, and local party caucus participants (Assendelft &OConnor, 1994; Costantini, 1990; Jennings & Farah, 1981; Lynn & Flora, 1977; Paddock& Paddock, 1997; Rapoport, Stone, & Abramowitz, 1990). The Democratic party mandatesgender equity for national party convention delegates, and many states require gender bal-ance on state and local party committees. Although women have generally not reached anoverall level of parity with men in terms of organizational representation, their formal pres-ence within both the Democratic and Republican parties has substantially increased. Thiscould have important implications for the parties. If the gender gap in mass public opin-ion is also evident among party activists, female party officials could offer a substantially
Tel.: +1-417-836-4617; fax: +1-417-836-6655.E-mail address: email@example.com (J. Paddock).
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different voice that has consequences for the performance and maintenance of politicalparty organizations. However, if female and male party officials adopt similar institutionalroles and perspectives, this may mitigate significant differences that might result fromgender.
A rather extensive literature on mass attitudes suggests that women tend to be more lib-eral than men on such issues as the role of government, crime and punishment, and for-eign and defense policy (Conway, Steuernagel, & Ahern, 1997; Cook & Wilcox, 1995, 1991;Hurwitz & Smithey, 1998; Kaufman & Petrocik, 1999; Seltzer, Newman, & Leighton, 1997).Similarly, surveys of local party caucus participants (Rapoport et al., 1990) and local partyactivists (Day & Hadley, 1997) have found women to be more liberal than men on a va-riety of issues. However, many surveys of party leaders in positions that require a greaterdegree of organizational commitment (e.g. national party convention delegates, state legis-lators, state party committee members) have shown that the differences between men andwomen are less pronounced (Baer & Bositis, 1988; Ford & Dolan, 1999; Jennings & Farah,1981; Kirkpatrick, 1976; Paddock & Paddock, 1997). The implicit assumption is that inparty positions that require a greater degree of organizational commitment, men and womenare exposed to similar socializing experiences that tend to minimize gender-based differ-ences (Dodson, 1990). Rapoport et al. (1990, p. 726) contend that gender differences amongparty elites vary substantially, depending on the level of elite being considered, and thatpeople who have certain political experiences in common (e.g. participating in a leader-ship role within a party organization) are more likely to have more homogenous views onpolicy.
This study considers the significance of a growing number of women in leadership posi-tions in county party organizations. County party organizations traditionally have played avital role in a decentralized American party system. Although the relative strength of theseorganizations differs from state to state, they play an important role in recruiting candidates,raising money, and carrying out a variety of voter mobilization efforts (Cotter, Gibson, Bibby,& Huckshorn, 1989). At one time, county party leaders were primarily men who operatedwithin an environment dominated by hierarchical institutional arrangements and the use ofmaterial incentives (i.e. patronage) to motivate people to do organizational work (Mayhew,1986). In more recent years, a growing number of women have become county party lead-ers within an environment of less hierarchical institutional arrangements and the greater useof purposive incentives (e.g. expressing a cause or an ideology) to motivate people to doorganizational work (Cotter et al., 1989; White & Shea, 2000). If these women are moreliberal than their male counterparts, it may have important consequences for what politi-cal parties do at the local level (e.g. the types of candidates recruited by the parties, thepolicy positions of local parties, the types of interest groups with whom local parties co-ordinate their campaign activities, the ability of local organizations to fashion the compro-mises necessary for electoral success). However, if similar socializing experiences in countyparty organization have minimized gender-based differences, then perhaps the greater num-ber of women in leadership positions is less significant. Few studies of differences betweenfemale and male party activists have focused on county organizational leaders. This issueis addressed by examining data from a 2000 survey of Democratic and Republican countychairs.
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In January 2000, surveys were sent to Democratic and Republican county chairs (or theirequivalent) in thirty-four states. In most states surveys were mailed to county chairs. However,Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont have town chairs rather than county chairs. Surveyswere mailed to town chairs in these states. Similarly, in Alaska, North Dakota, and rural partsof Minnesota there are no county chairs, but rather state legislative district chairs. In thesestates surveys were mailed to state legislative district chairs. Because of budgetary restrictionsand the fact that not all state parties would release their lists of county chairs, all fifty stateswere not surveyed.1 However, the states in this survey reflect considerable diversity.2
Follow-up mailings of surveys were sent to non-respondents in March 2000 to increase theresponse rate. A total of 2,389 usable surveys were returned. The response rate was approxi-mately 46% overall (48% for the Democrats, and 43% for the Republicans). Among Democrats,the response rate ranged from a high of 69% in Montana to a low of 33% in Alaska. AmongRepublicans, the response rate ranged from a high of 63% in Ohio to a low of 31% in Tennessee.
A five-point scale (from strongly favor to strongly oppose) was used to measure respon-dents ideology on the following items: (1) a womans legal right to have an abortion; (2) aconstitutional amendment allowing organized prayer in the public schools; (3) governmentsponsored national health insurance; (4) increased government regulation to protect theenvironment; (5) vouchers for students to attend private schools; (6) affirmative actionprograms to increase minority representation in jobs and education; (7) increased governmentaid to the poor; (8) the death penalty as punishment for certain serious crimes; (9) increaseddefense spending; (10) legislation restricting soft money in American campaigns; (11)tax cuts to foster increased private investment in the economy; (12) increased public aid toeducation; (13) increased restrictions on purchasing firearms; and (14) legislation grantingworkers leave for pregnancy or medical conditions. The responses were rotated so that a 1and 2 reflected a liberal response (strongly agree or agree on items 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13,and 14; strongly disagree on items 2, 5, 8, 9, and 11) and a 4 and 5 reflected a conservativeresponse (strongly agree or agree on items 2, 5, 8, 9, and 11; strongly disagree or disagree onitems 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, and 14). Mean ideology scores were calculated for women andmen in both parties for each of the 14 survey items.
Our first question examines whether there are statistically significant differences betweenwomen and men in organizational experience. Since the literature suggests that men and womenwith similar partisan experience do not substantially differ in ideology, we asked the surveyrespondents to report the number of years they had been active within their party organization,the number of years they had served as chair of their local organization, the number of hoursper week they committed to organizational work, and the population of the local area in whichthey are a party chair (larger areas presumably have more developed local party organizationsthat require more commitment on the part of the chair). Table 1 summarizes the differences inpartisan experience between female and male chairs. A difference of means test was calculated
228 J. Paddock, E. Paddock / The Social Science Journal 41 (2004) 225234
Table 1Mean differences between female and male party chairs in service to the party
Democraticfemales(N = 463)
Democraticmales(N = 856)
t-test Republicanfemales(N = 275)
Republicanmales(N = 795)
Years active in party 21.35 22.16 1.055 20.23 18.81 1.504Years as chair 6.04 6.31 0.758 5.69 5.74 0.120Hours per week
committed to party(campaign season)
17.97 16.19 1.947 17.65 15.13 2.527
Hours per weekcommitted to party(non-campaignseason)
5.63 5.31 0.712 6.30 5.33 1.876
Population of arearepresented
96,490 80,610 0.774 82,498 75,361 0.505
p < .05.
for each variable to test for statistical significance. This test is to determine the probabilitythat the differences in experience between men and women are real or due to chance. If thisprobability is less than 0.05, we will reject the null hypothesis that the differences are due tochance. Respondents were also asked to report the elected and party offices they currently holdor previously held. Table 2 summarizes the percentages of females and males who reportedcurrently or formerly holding certain elected and party offices. Chi-Squared tests were run foreach variable to test for statistical significance.
Table 2Political experiences of female and male local party leaders (numbers represent percentages)Political experience Democratic
females(N = 463)
Democraticmales(N = 856)
Republicanfemales(N = 275)
Republicanmales(N = 795)
Elected to local office 28 38 19.51 25 36 12.33Elected to state office 2 5 12.22 2 3 5.29Elected to national office
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Although men continue to outnumber women in local party leadership positions (womenaccounted for about 35% of the Democratic respondents and 26% of the Republican respon-dents), the men and women in both parties exhibit about the same amount of organizationalexperience. The mean tenure (for both years of party activism and years as local party chair)for females and males in both parties is almost identical. Women commit slightly more time toorganizational work, which is perhaps a function of chairing organizations from slightly largerlocal areas. Similarly, there are only minor gender differences in the types of party offices held.Democratic and Republican women are slightly more likely to have served on their state partycommittee. The relatively high levels of female participation in state party activities (e.g. stateparty committees, state convention delegates, state platform committees) may partially be afunction of requirements in many states for gender balance on state party committees.
The only areas where Democratic and Republican men have higher levels of experience thatare statistically significant are in elected and appointed positions in government. In both partiesmen are more likely than women to have been elected to local or state office or to have beenappointed to government office. This is consistent with the wider population of elected officialswhere women, despite recent gains, are still under-represented in such institutions as citycouncils, county commissions, state legislatures, and the U.S. Congress. Overall, though, thefemale and male respondents have similar levels of party organizational experience. Based onthe previous literature on party activists at other levels, we expect that while gender differencesin policy preferences may exist, the similar partisan experiences of female and male local partyleaders will likely mitigate the more substantial gender differences that have been measuredat the mass level.
To compare the ideologies of female and male respondents, mean scores were calculatedfor each of the 14 policy questions. The 14 questions were then combined into an overall meanideology score. Difference of means tests were also calculated for each of the measures totest for statistical significance. Difference of means tests and their probability values for the14 policy questions and the overall ideology score are summarized in Tables 3 and 4. Meanscores closer to 1 are in the liberal direction, while scores closer to 5 are in the conservativedirection.
Among Democrats, women were more liberal (lower mean scores) than men on every issueexcept aid to the poor and campaign finance reform. Statistically significant differences weremeasured on seven of the 14 issues: abortion, school vouchers, affirmative action, the deathpenalty, defense spending, gun control, and pregnancy leave. On all seven of these issues,the direction of difference is as expected: the female Democratic chairs exhibit slightly moreliberal tendencies than the male Democratic chairs. Three of these issues (abortion, affirmativeaction, and pregnancy leave) tend to more directly affect women than men. Another three ofthe issues (the death penalty, defense spending and gun control) relate to the use of forceissue dimension. Scholars of mass attitudes have noted that women tend to be less supportiveof the use of force, and more supportive of rehabilitation, negotiated settlements, and guncontrol measures (see, for example, Hurwitz & Smithey, 1998; Seltzer et al., 1997). AlthoughDemocrats tended to strongly oppose school vouchers, Democratic women were even lesssupportive of the measure. The difference between females and males on school vouchers maybe related to occupational background. Eight percent of the female Democratic chairs, andonly 5% of the Democratic men, were teachers.
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Table 3Mean ideological differences between Democratic females and males